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Press Releases


£125,000 Digital R&D Fund Backs New Models of Releasing Feature Films

Date posted: 16.07.2014

  • Film London, We Are Colony and Edge Hill University collaborate to explore potential of innovative digital releases and earlier audience engagement
  • Aims to capitalise on new digital platforms to meet audience’s hunger for content, unlock value of ancillary materials and deliver new revenue for filmmakers
  • Independent filmmakers with potential projects contact Film London:

Film London, We Are Colony and Edge Hill University have been awarded a £125,000 grant from the Digital R&D Fund for the Arts to explore the release of independent films on We Are Colony's innovative new digital platform. We Are Colony is the only VOD platform designed to engage and grow an audience from the outset of a film's life span. Over the next year, Film London and Professor Philip Drake from Edge Hill University will explore and analyse the true potential of the new digital space and aim to exploit the hunger audiences have to consume and pay for a film's ancillary assets.

A transactional VOD platform, We Are Colony users will pay to access the film plus a bundle of additional content, prior to and after general release. From trailers and teasers, to deleted and extended scenes, scripts and storyboards, to interviews with cast and crew, We Are Colony has created a platform to satisfy audience demand for closer and earlier relationships with films and the filmmakers they love.

The Digital R&D Fund for the Arts is a partnership between Arts Council England, the Arts and Humanities Research Council and Nesta. It supports collaboration between arts projects, technology providers and researchers to explore and increase audience engagement or develop new business models. This project aims to specifically support independent filmmakers, as well as the wider creative industries, and provide a greater understanding of how, through documenting the process of their work, they can deliver deeper audience engagement as well as drive new revenue. Results from the research will be shared with the sector.

Film London, as pioneers in the low-budget film arena with projects such as the Microwave feature film fund, Build Your Audience, and the new Micro Market (enabling independent filmmakers with budgets under €1million to attract finance to their projects), were a natural choice of partner for We Are Colony. Professor Drake brings academic expertise in researching the film industry and will collect and analyse the data to deliver valuable insights into digital film audiences and content consumption. Film London will deliver appropriate UK independent projects for the We Are Colony platform, including features supported through the agency's production and training schemes. Independent filmmakers with potential projects for We Are Colony should contact Film London at

Adrian Wootton, Chief Executive of Film London and the British Film Commission, said: "This is a very exciting expansion of our work in interrogating and supporting new distribution models for independent filmmakers. I thank the Digital R&D Fund for the Arts for their vision in funding this work and am keen to see how it develops."

Deborah Sathe, Head of Talent Development and Production at Film London, says: "The emergence of film and television providers like Netflix and Amazon alongside ever more competitive VOD sites has changed the behaviour of audiences. Independent film now has numerous more ways to show itself, but in turn the industry needs to ensure these platforms work hard enough for filmmakers. We Are Colony seeks to build an audience by exploiting and monetising a film's assets prior to, during and after general release, bringing  further income to the filmmakers, where there was none before. Through this project I am excited to explore this digital playground with our partners and see whether digital innovation can enable filmmakers and their films to a brighter future. We are actively looking to engage with filmmakers, distributors, sales agents and those that believe the We Are Colony platform could enable their work to bring in a new audience."

Sarah Tierney, Founder of We Are Colony, says: "As a former filmmaker myself, I understood the frustrations and challenges faced by independent filmmakers in how to best promote their work and drive discovery by audiences. As traditional release windows have collapsed, independent filmmakers have lost the ability to create word-of-mouth buzz around their films. We Are Colony aims to create a new window of release where filmmakers connect, grow and monetise their audiences during production and the earliest days of distribution, as well as the long-tail of audience appetites. Our approach is complimentary to traditional distribution, and boosts the filmmaker's chance of wider representation by proving market demand early. We are delighted to have this opportunity to work with Film London and Edge Hill University, who share our ambitions to create more sustainable commercial opportunities for independent filmmakers, and look forward to sharing our insights with the sector."

Philip Drake, Professor in Film, Media and Communications, Edge Hill University, says: "Worldwide, the barrier to entry for independent films remains high. Mainstream film releases often have marketing budgets equal to their high production spend. Reportedly, the Hollywood studios spent $4 billion on advertising last year, with around 50% of a film's multi-million budget allocated to marketing. In this market, less mainstream films can struggle to connect with their audience, and the BFI's 2013 statistics reveal that just 7% of UK films make a profit, this number falling to 3.1% of films with budgets under £500,000. In the past five years, there has been real change in the funding of independent film, the most obvious example being crowdfunding. On Kickstarter alone, the platform raised over $120m for film-related projects between 2009 and 2012, with more than 800,000 people in over 100 countries funding 8,567 film projects. With developments in Video on Demand (VOD), and how content is consumed, there is a real need to understand the opportunities for new distribution models that challenge traditional approaches, helping independent films find their audiences and connect to them through new funding channels such as crowdfunding."

We Are Colony launched globally in June 2014. To sign up for early access, please visit: Follow the project at @wearecolony.

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For further press information or interviews, please contact:

Colette Geraghty

T: 020 7613 7680

M: 07917 437 699


Notes to Editors

About Film London

Film London is the capital's screen industries agency. We connect ideas, talent and finance to develop a pioneering creative culture in the city that delivers success in film, television, animation, games and beyond.

We work to sustain, promote and develop London as a global content production hub, support the development of the city's new and emerging filmmaking talent and invest in a diverse and rich film culture. Funded by the Mayor of London and the National Lottery through the BFI, we also receive support from Arts Council England and Creative Skillset.

Film London's activities include:

  • Maintaining, strengthening and promoting London's position as world-class city to attract investment through film, television, animation and games
  • Investing in local talent through a range of specialised production and training schemes
  • Boosting employment and competitiveness in the capital's screen industries by delivering internationally facing business development events
  • Maximising access to the capital's film culture by helping audiences discover film in all its diversity
  • Promoting London through screen tourism

Film London also manages the British Film Commission through a public/private partnership which is funded by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport through the BFI.


About We Are Colony

We Are Colony was founded and is run by Sarah Tierney, a former filmmaker of Oscar-nominated and BAFTA-winning work, and a digital distribution specialist. The new venture has received backing from Zone, the UK's number 1 independent digital agency, and funding from the Technology Strategy Board SMART Awards. We Are Colony is backed by SeedCamp, Europe's leading micro-seed investment programme, and was named a "startup to watch" by The Next Web. The platform launched a worldwide beta from June 2014.

About the Digital R&D Fund for the Arts

The Digital R&D fund for the Arts is a £7 million fund to support collaboration between organisations with arts projects, technology providers, and researchers. It is a partnership between Arts Council England (, Arts and Humanities Research Council ( and Nesta (

We want to see projects that use digital technology to enhance audience reach and/or develop new business models for the arts sector. With a dedicated researcher or research team as part of the three-way collaboration, learning from the project can be captured and disseminated to the wider arts sector.

Every project needs to identify a particular question or problem that can be tested. Importantly this question needs to generate knowledge for other arts organisations that they can apply to their own digital strategies.

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